Tag Archives: Tipton

Wood takes the reins of West Lafayette baseball

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

New head baseball coach Aaron Wood has long been a part of athletics at West Lafayette (Ind.) Junior/Senior High School.
As a 2000 West Lafayette graduate, Wood earned eight varsity letters for the Red Devils — three in baseball, three in football and two in basketball.
His head coaches were Dan Walbaum in baseball, Ernie Beck and Lane Custer in football and father David Wood in basketball.
Wood has been an assistant coach for all three sports at West Lafayette.
“It’s my way of giving back,” says Wood, who has gotten to work with Walbaum and Joel Strode in baseball, his father in basketball and Shane Fry in football. “I’ve been a member of this baseball program for a long time. The opportunity (to be head coach) presented itself and I took it.”
In Wood’s 13 years on the baseball staff, West Lafayette won three sectionals, two regionals and seven Hoosier Conference titles.
Next year will mark two decades for Wood with Red Devils football. He was the running backs coach under Fry this fall and the 2022 team was ranked No. 1 in IHSAA Class 3A and finished 13-1.
“I have really enjoyed my time with that program,” says Wood. “I hope in some ways we can mimic the success (football) has had in the baseball program in terms of the postseason.
“We want to have some fun and win a whole bunch of games in the process.”
David Wood retired after the 2020-21 season — his 27th as Red Devils head boys basketball coach. He earned nine sectional titles, including in 1999 and 2000.
Aaron Wood, who is in his fifth year as a Physical Education/Health teacher and strength and conditioning coach for West Lafayette, was hired last week to lead West Lafayette on the diamond. Strode is the Red Devils athletic director.
West Lafayette (enrollment around 730) is a member of the Hoosier Conference (with Benton Central, Hamilton Heights, Lafayette Central Catholic, Lewis Cass, Northwestern, Rensselaer Central, Tipton, Twin Lakes and Western).
Each conference baseball team plays each other twice in a home-and-home series during the same week.
The Red Devils are part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping in 2023 with Frankfort, North Montgomery, Northwestern, Twin Lakes and Western. West Lafayette has won nine sectional titles — the last in 2011.
The Red Devils play home games on Bob Friend Field, a facility which recently got new paint and work on the dugouts.
West Lafayette went 13-8 overall and 8-1 in the conference last spring. Senior Evan Cooke (.353 with six home runs and 27 runs batted in and 4-2 on the mound with a 1.51 earned run average for 2022) and junior Jack Shaeffer (.400 with 18 RBIs and 2-3) are expected back for 2023. Cooke scored 34 goals this fall for West Lafayette’s 20-1-1 boys soccer team.
While it is not affiliated with the school, West Lafayette Youth Baseball teaches the game at the younger levels.
While he was busy with football, Wood noticed that some baseball players were getting in work at various places in the fall. He looks forward to the next IHSAA Limited Contact Period (Dec. 5-Feb. 4) where baseball activities will be permitted two times a week for two hours.
Wood is in the process of assembling his coaching staff.
“We need to get administrative things out of the way and start focusing on player development,” said Wood.
A former multi-sport athlete himself, Wood is a believer in it.
“We have to have it for our school to have success,” says Wood. “It does wonders for your support and it develops the sort of toughness that we need to win.
“You’re remaining in competitive environments.”
Wood went into the working world out of high school and earned an degree in Organizational Leadership and Supervision degree from Purdue University more than a decade later.
The husband of West Lafayette Elementary School third grade teacher Jennifer Wood later decided to go into education.
“I have a passion for students and coaching,” says Wood. “I got a graduate certificate from Indiana Wesleyan and here I am.
“It’s the best decision I’ve ever made professionally.”
With Aaron and Jennifer both being teachers they are on the same schedule and able to spend time together and with daughter Carson (6) and son Carter (3).
“They enjoy being at the various fields and making it a family affair,” says Wood.

Aaron Wood.

Hall of Famer Sherman offers diamond wisdom

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Don Sherman won more than 600 high school baseball games during his 38 seasons as a head coach, beginning with Tipton and Hamilton Heights.
In 23 seasons at Huntington (Ind.) North, Sherman’s Vikings went 441-211 with 15 sectional championships, three regionals, one semistate and one state runner-up (1993).
His final season was 2001.
“I’m so proud of this,” says Sherman. “It didn’t end. The people are following me. They’re doing the same things.
“We have a community here.”
Sherman still finds himself serving as a substitute teacher nearly every school day and is a regular at Vikings practices and games and often talks baseball with current Huntington North head coach Jarod Hammel.
He even goes to the field solo and plays “fungo golf.”
Sherman, whose 23 is the only number retired for the Huntington North Athletics/Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer and a former Tampa Bay associate scout for, loves to share his wisdom about the game.
A few years ago, he crafted a list of “Things kids need to know in order to give them the best chance to make their high school baseball team.”

  • Respect the game.
  • Practice hard because you play the way you practice.
  • It doesn’t take any talent to hustle.
  • Be a student of the game of baseball. Study the history of baseball.
  • Help your team win … whether you play or not.
  • Don’t tell people how good you are, show them.
  • Your parents love you; but, they don’t more than your coach loves baseball.
  • Body language screams. It never whispers.
  • Defense wins more games than offense.
  • Work on your game every day: throwing, hitting, fielding.
  • You don’t have to be a great athlete to be a good baseball player.
  • When you jog to warm up, finish first.
  • When you do a drill, do it perfect every time.
  • Never walk on the baseball field.
  • Maintain the grades that keep you eligible.

Sherman was kind enough to expound on some of these points.
“Respecting the game — that goes back a long way,” says Sherman. “It’s just playing the right way. It’s just how you put your suit on; how you take your infield drills; how you act after your strike out with the bases loaded; how you act after a game you lost versus when you won the game; how you act when you’re 0-for-3 versus 3-for-3 at the plate.
“You put all that together and it’s called respect for the game that was set up by a lot of people in front of us that played it and coached it.
“I can spot disrespect for the game. A kid might not run out a ball or throws hit glove or his bat. Or he gives the third base coach flak who puts on a bunt when he wanted to hit away when the bunt was in-order.”
And there’s more.
“It’s when the game finishes to put away equipment. It’s how you ride the bus. How do you go to South Bend to play a game and what’s your conduct?”
Sherman grew up in central Pennsylvania as a catcher.
“My coach stood right behind me,” says Sherman. “I heard everything he said when he hit infield. I heard every detail, every comment he made.”
After two years of junior college ball in California, Sherman earned two letters (1962 and 1963) at Ball State Teachers College (now Ball State University) in Muncie, Ind., for head coach Ray Louthen.
Sherman talks about “Helping the team win … whether you play or not.”
He recalls a coach telling him how he was impressed with his second- and third-string catchers (Sherman had a starter and two other receivers).
“They accepted their roles,” says Sherman of the backups. “They weren’t going to get in the game, but they did the important part of getting my starters ready.”
Starters — plural — because Sherman took the advice of Ken Schreiber (winner of 1,010 games and seven state titles) about warming up two pitchers before a championship game in case the starter doesn’t have it that day and could lose the contest in the first inning.
“The hardest part of coaching today from what I hear from younger coaches is parents complaining about their kids not playing,” says Sherman. “That’s why it’s important for the kids to buy in early and accept their role. It might be as a late-inning pinch hitter. It might be as a pinch-runner. It might be as a relief pitcher. You might be playing third base when you came up as a right fielder or something like that.
“I’ve found that kids accept their roles better than their parents do. I cut a senior one time. He wasn’t going to get to play. I told him practice was going to be his gameday. We parted amicably. I was honest with him.”
Sherman had some players tell him they came out every year because they “liked being a Viking and being part of the team.”
These kind of players never gave the gave any problems. He never kept a “clubhouse lawyer.”
“The season’s long and those kids in the dugout while you’re coaching third (base) are politicking about ‘why am I not playing’ and that spreads. I could always spot them and I would have a sit-down and ask ‘can you accept your role?’”
Sherman contends “You don’t have to be a great athlete to be a good baseball player.”
“You can have a kid that’s 5-foot-6 who can run a little bit and put him at second base,” says Sherman. “He might lay down that bunt that gets the winning run moved over.
“In so many other sports you’ve got to be a physical specimen. You don’t in baseball.”
While conducting tryout camps for Tampa Bay, Sherman saw a sorts of body types. Oftentimes the best players did not have the best bodies.
Sherman explains where he came up with “When you do a drill, do it perfect every time.”
“You never know who’s watching,” says Sherman. “The pros time you when you come out of the (batter’s) box during batting practice.
“I thought pregame was so important. I copied (Mississippi State coach) Ron Polk’s pregame and had two balls moving at the same time. We’re just getting after it. We go around the horn and turn double plays.”
Sherman had what he called “negatives” more muffs and missed cut-off men.
If there was less than perfection during the drill, the whole team might have a do push-ups or some extra running.
“It’s the old military way,” says Sherman, who saw players begin to hold each other accountable. “They coached each other.”
It’s also on Sherman’s checklist to “Never walk on the baseball field.”
“Kids know that when they get inside that gate, inside that foul line they know to hustle,” says Sherman. “That’s when practice starts.
“You’re going to practice now and the purpose is to get better.”
There also the principle of “Don’t tell people how good you are, show them.”
“Show me with your effort and your skill set rather than what somebody else said about you (in a showcase setting),” says Sherman. “It’s humble being humble. If you wear your emotions on your sleeve, scouts and college coaches will look at that and say you’re a ‘front-runner.’”
To Sherman, “Body language screams. It never whispers.”
“It’s how you conduct yourself,” says Sherman.
There was one game when his best player struck out and threw his bat. The umpire did not eject the player, but Sherman took him out of the game.
“I’ll leave games today if I see that kind of stuff (including a lack of hustle),” says Sherman. “I hate bad baseball.”
The IHSBCA long ago began a tradition of giving on “Dinosaur” T-shirts to those hitting the 20-year mark. Sherman says he has worn out a few of his.
He is proud that he got to coach against and serve with Hall of Famers Dave Alexander, Bill Jones, Jack Massucci, Bill Nixon, Jim Reinebold, Chris Rood, Ken Schreiber, Dick Siler, Chris Stavreti and Jim Turner Sr., and so many others who have made the game what it is today.

Don Sherman. (Steve Krah Photo)
Huntington North was IHSAA baseball state runner-up in 1993.
Huntington North Vikings.

Jordan, Tipton Blue Devils aiming at turnaround in 2023

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Rob Jordan was to lead his first Tipton (Ind.) High School baseball season during the spring of 2020.
But the COVID-19 pandemic kept the Blue Devils from playing a game.
Jordan’s first on-field campaign as head coach was 2021. Most of the players from that team graduated, leaving very little varsity experience in 2022.
“Last season was pretty tough on us,” says Jordan of year where Tipton went 2-18 with 27 players in the program. “We had a whole new pitching staff.”
Jordan does expect most of his pitching to return in 2023, meaning they will have more experience. There is a big freshman class and the Blue Devils should have eight seniors (Zane Goodrich, Chase Higgins, Houston Nasser, Jack Nasser, Clark Rodibaugh, Joe Shelly, Eli Shook and Austin Smith).
“We’ve got good young kids,” says Jordan. “With our veteran leadership, we hope it’s a breakout year.”
Ten to 15 players — those not in a fall sport — have been going over fundamentals with Jordan at twice-a-week IHSAA Limited Contact Period fall practices.
Tipton (enrollment around 450) is a member of the Hoosier Athletic Conference (with IHSAA Class 2A Tipton, 3A Hamilton Heights, 2A Lewis Cass, 3A Northwestern and 3A Western in the East Division and 3A Benton Central, 1A Lafayette Central Catholic, 2A Rensselaer Central, 3A Twin Lakes and 3A West Lafayette in the West Division).
The Blue Devis were part of an 2A sectional grouping in 2022 with Blackford, Eastbrook, Eastern (Greentown), Madison-Grant and Taylor. Tipton has won seven sectional titles — the last in 2009.
Tipton plays its games on-campus. A new 30-by-30 college-style scoreboard was installed in the summer and new dugouts are nearing completion.
Feeding the high school program are travel baseball teams plus Tipton Youth Baseball League (Little Sluggers ages 3-5, Pee Wee 5-8, Cal Ripken 9-12 and Babe Ruth 13-15).
Right-handed pitcher Trayjan Phifer (Class of 2021) moved on to Cleary University in Howell, Mich.).
Jordan says pitcher/first baseman Vince Hoover (Class of 2024) has been getting looks for colleges.
Jordan’s coaching staff for 2023 includes varsity assistant Steve Cherry, junior varsity head coach Andy Hussong and JV assistant Brian Middleton and possibly two more.
A 1988 graduate of Tri-Central Middle/High School in Sharpsville, Ind., Jordan played for Trojans head coach Dave Driggs.
“We got a fair opportunity,” says Jordan of his prep days. “Politics wasn’t a factor for playing time.”
At the time, there was a big rival between Tri-Central and Tipton and the Trojans are still on the Blue Devils schedule.
At Missouri Valley College (Marshall, Mo.), first baseman/utility player Jordan played three seasons and learned about conditioning and hard-nosed play from Vikings head coach Ron Givens before an arm injury ended his career.
Jordan coached youth league baseball before taking the reins at Tipton.
Rob is foundation seed manager for Beck’s Hybrids. He and wife Laura had a daughter (Jessica) and son (Dylan). Dylan Jordan passed away in 2019 at 16. He was in the Tri-Central Class of 2022.

Rob Jordan.

Rosters set for June 22 IHSBCA Futures Game at Indiana Wesleyan

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Rosters have been established for the 2022 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Futures Game.
The showcase for players with remaining high school eligibility is slated for Wednesday, June 22 on the turf at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion — site of the IHSBCA North/South Series June 24-26.
Beginning at 9 a.m., Futures Game participants show their skills. Games are slated for noon (Navy vs. Gold) and 2 p.m. (Gray vs. Red).

FUTURES GAME SHOWCASE ROSTER
3b Josh Adamczewski (Lake Central)
p R.J. Anglin (LaPorte)
p Charlie Baker (Indianapolis North Central)
c Bryce Berkemeier (Rushville)
p Koen Berry (Nortwestern)
mif L.J. Bevier (Elkhart Christian)
c Drew Bradley (Jasper)
c Caleb Branam (NorthWood)
of Joel Bueltel (Forest Park)
1b/p A.J. Burkhalter (Northwestern)
mif Brayden Coffey (Decatur Central)
mif Braden Cook (Elkhart)
3b Jaxon Copas (Central Noble)
p Cale Coursey (Crawfordsville)
mif Henry Cruz (Springs Valley)
1b Aiden Darlage (Seymour)
p Jordan DeAtley (Southwestern of Hanover)
c/p Andrew Dillon (Wabash)
of Bradyn Douglas (Frankton)
mif Daxton Dudley (Wapahani)
c Bret Echelbarger (Western)
of/p Cade Epp (Western)
mif Kade Flores (LaPorte)
p Brayden Grass (South Central of Union Mills)
1b Jack Grunkemeyer (Batesville)
p Cole Gruppenhoff (Bloomington North)
3b Lance Hanna (Rossville)
p Brycen Hannah (John Glenn)
mif Quincy Harper (Heritage Christian)
p Alec Hershberger (Fairfield)
p Maddox Holsclaw (Plainfield)
1b Vince Hoover (Tipton)
p Ricky Howell (Pendleton Heights)
of Landyn Iden (Columbia City)
mif Braden Kauffman (Westview)
p Ben Kearns (West Vigo)
of Grady Kepplin (New Prairie)
3b Bo Kerns (Lakeland)
if Denham Kozy (Munster)
c Adam Lehmann (Penn)
c Chase Long (Delph)
p Cole Long (Delphi)
3b Logan Marsell (McCutcheon)
mif Cooper Martin (Plainfield)
of Cam Martinez (Fort Wayne Bishop Luers)
of/p Treyton McCormick (Seymour)
mif Quaid Mull (Hagerstown)
p Jake Mulvehill (South Bend Adams)
of Braxton Myers (Connersville)
of Jayden Ohmer (Brebeuf Jesuit)
3b Ben Orrill (Madison)
p Tayvion Ortman (New Prairie)
p Andrew Parker (Kankakee Valley)
mif Ian Potts (Peru)
of Micah Rienstra-Kiracofe (Indianapolis North Central)
p Sam Russo (Elkhart)
of/p Dominic Sharp (Boonville)
of Grant Shepherd (Greenfield-Central)
of Nate Simpson (Avon)
1b Rylee Singleton (Evansville North)
1b Carson Terrell (Northeastern)
1b/p Easton Terry (South Vermillion)
3b Cannon Vandever (Avon)
p Brady Watts (Austin)
p Kale Wemer (Crawfordsville)
1b Matthew Wright (Jasper)
c Bryce Yoder (Homestead)
mif Maddux Yohe (Mishawaka)
3b Zach Zychowski (Hanover Central)

Dill grinding away with Taylor Titans baseball

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Kris Dill has been coaching for close to two decades — the last three at his alma mater. In his first year in charge (2019), his Taylor High School baseball team lost to eventual state champion Alexandra-Monroe in the IHSAA Class 2A Eastern (Greentown) Sectional final.
A 1996 graduate of Taylor in Kokomo, Ind., Dill was a junior varsity assistant on a staff led by Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer George Phares in 2003. That summer, Phares got him hooked up with a Connie Mack League coaching job. Dill helped guide the Taylor Titans with Phares and then Jeremy Luna through 2010.
Later came the opportunity to be head JV softball coach at Kokomo High School for a year and head JV baseball coach for the Wildkats for four years before taking his current position at Taylor. When that happened he stepped down as director of 8U to 14U teams for the Indiana Nitro travel organization and is now a 14U Gold assistant.
Born and raised in Kokomo, Dill played at Taylor Southeast Little League, where Dwayne Richmond was one of his coaches. Dill later assisted him at Taylor High.
“I learned a ton from him,” says Dill of Richmond.
Dill attended Victory Christian Academy from kindergarten through freshmen year. VCA does not have a baseball team. He transferred to Taylor as a sophomore and became acquainted with Phares.
“He taught hard lessons,” says Dill, who was a catcher on the field and not such a disciplined student. “If you weren’t doing the right things in the classrooms he wasn’t going to let you get away with that. You’ve got to be accountable.
“I did not play college baseball. I was pretty immature.”
Dill entered the work force after high school. He got married, started a family and, eventually, decided to go to college.
“I was going into youth ministry,” says Dill, who left for Kentucky Christian University (Grayson, Ky.) at the end of July 2003.
On Labor Day weekend, Dill, wife Brenda and baby daughter Arianne were traveled back to Kokomo when tragedy struck.
“We were 15 minutes from home on U.S. 31 and a drunk driver headed in wrong direction hit us head-on,” says Dill of that Aug. 29. “It killed my wife instantly. I got 100 stitches. My daughter did not have a scratch.”
Brenda Sue Dill was 22.
Kris Dill stayed in Kentucky for the next two years then moved back to his hometown. He eventually earned a degree from Indiana University Kokomo (2013) and got re-married. He and wife Amy have a son named Kade.
Arianne Dill played soccer at nearby Western High School as a freshman and sophomore. She ran cross country and track and Taylor and graduated in 2021. Baseball-playing Kade Dill is a Taylor eighth grader.
Kris, who turns 44 in November, teaches general and Advanced College Placement U.S. History at Taylor.
As baseball coach, Dill leads a program at a school with an enrollment around 360 and not many with the resources to play travel ball. They often arrive in high school lacking in the fundamentals and diamond experience.
“(In 2021-22) we’re going to be in a little better spot,” says Dill. “We got in a summer of Babe Ruth Baseball (the COVID-19 pandemic took away high school and summer action in 2020). We got to play and learn how to play.
“We will be able to hit the ground running with varsity players. The JV will get some time to perfect those fundamentals and hone in on them. Our Baseball I.Q. is going to be in a lot better place.
“Our kids didn’t play for two years essentially. But we don’t talk about those things. We talk about what we’re going to do to get better.”
While slowed down when Dill tested positive and was out for two weeks, Taylor is easing into IHSAA Limited Contact Period activities (the current window is Aug. 30-Oct. 16).
Dill’s coaching staff features Tyler Hodson, Tim Douglas and B.J. Pemberton with the varsity and head coach Josiah Bolton and assistant Caden Sullivan with the JV.
Taylor plays on George Phares Field. The Titans are a member of the Hoosier Heartland Conference (with baseball members Carroll of Flora, Clinton Central, Clinton Prairie, Eastern of Greentown, Rossville, Sheridan and Tri-Central).
In 2021, Taylor was part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping with Blackford, Eastbrook, Eastern (Greentown), Madison-Grant and Tipton. The Titans have won seven sectional titles — the last in 2015.

Former player Colby Devenport is on the reserve squad at Indiana Tech.
Taylor brought back middle school baseball in 2021, which will also help at the high school level. As part of the feeder system, travel teams are being added at Taylor Southeast.
“We’re headed in the right direction,” says Dill. “It’s a slow-moving build. We’re going to grind away.”
The 8U level is going to Coach Pitch so they can learn how to see the ball out of the pitcher’s hand.
“We have resources,” says Dill. “It’s about using them correctly.”

Kris Dill, Michael Pemberton (8) and B.J. Pemberton (4).
The Dills (from left): Kade, Arianne, Amy and Kris.

Fundamentals key for Haley, Madison-Grant Argylls

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Madison-Grant Junior/Senior High School varsity baseball was building slowly leading into 2020.

With Scott Haley as Argylls head coach, MG won two games in 2017, three in 2018 and seven in 2019. The latter team won its first game in the IHSAA Class 2A Eastern (Greentown) Sectional.

Haley was stressing fundamentals.

“We had lost nine or 10 seniors when I took over,” says Haley. “We were returning little or no varsity experience. The feeder system was not very strong. We were really betting back to the basics of the game like playing catch the correct way.

“It was a rough first year.”

There was anticipation for the following season. But a pandemic took that away and players didn’t get on the field.

“We were ready for a breakthrough season,” says Haley. “My heart broke for them.” 

Haley is now getting Madison-Grant ready for what its hopes will be a fun and successful 2021 campaign, which is slated to open April 5 against Wes-Del. The 2021 roster is expected to have plenty of seniors. Pitcher Nick Evans is expected back as a four-year starter and has gotten plenty of attention from college baseball.

When “Senior Night” comes along, Haley plans to also honor the five players from the Class of 2020. 

Fairmount-based Madison-Grant (enrollment around 365) is a member of the Central Indiana Conference (with Alexandria-Monroe, Blackford, Eastbrook, Elwood, Frankton, Mississinewa and Oak Hill).

The Argylls are part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping with Blackford, Eastbrook, Eastern (Greentown), Elwood, Taylor and Tipton. Madison-Grant has won six sectional crowns — the last in 2012.

During the fall IHSAA Limited Contact Period, Madison-Grant concentrated on fundamentals.

“We got outside quite a bit and took advantage of the new pitching machine we bought through our fundraiser,” says Haley. “There were a lot of drills and live action. 

“We allow junior high kids to come out also. It gets them excited about the game.”

Winter Limited Contact open gyms began this past week and Haley had 15 players Jan. 5 and 11 Jan. 7.

Madison-Grant plays its home games on-campus. Several upgrades have been made or are planned for the field, including installation of new bullpens, re-sodding, refurbishing of dugouts, new wind screens, edging in the infield and outfield and an overhaul of the mound.

“We’ve tried to do something every year to make it better,” says Haley, who hopes to get to show off the place when his team hosts the Grant Four tournament May 1 (with Eastbrook, Mississinewa and Oak Hill) and Argyll Classic (with Eastern of Greentown, Southern Wells and Tri-Central) May 15.

Besides Haley, the Argylls coaching staff includes Mike Evans, Gary Harbert, Norm Dailey (junior varsity) and Brock Massey (junior high). Haley says he anticipates having around 25 players for varsity and JV teams in the spring.

The well-received junior high program for seventh and eighth graders was established two years ago with about 15 players. Baseball will also be a part of the new Madison-Grant Youth Sports League.

“We’re giving them guidelines that we want them to follow so they’ll be ready when they get to high school,” says Haley.

Prior to taking over the MG baseball program, Haley was JV coach for three seasons on Todd Farr’s Eastbrook staff.

“He was a players’ coach,” says Haley of Farr. “He was good on practice schedules and fundamentals. The kids really enjoyed playing for him. 

“He built that Easbrook program back up.”

Haley is a 1980 Eastbrook graduate. His baseball coach was Tim Sumner.

“He basically taught me almost everything about the game,” says Haley. “He saw something in myself that I had not seen.

“I owe a lot to him.”

Sumner, a 1965 Hammond Morton High School graduate, was a player and assistant coach Taylor University in Upland, Ind., and an assistant for College World Series teams led by Ron Polk at Mississippi State University. He was also an assistant AD at MSU and was director of athletic academics and athletic compliance at the University of Memphis. He established Batters Box Baseball in Collierville, Tenn. Sumner died Dec. 19, 2019.

Haley attended Huntington College (now Huntington University) for one year, but his playing career was ended when he twice re-broke a wrist he had broken already broken in high school.

He recently retired from a 26-year stint as a Walmart manager and works part-time at Lowe’s in Marion, Ind.

Scott and Barbra Haley have been married 31 years. Their daughter Adara (30) is married to Nicholas Smith.

Scott Haley is the head baseball coach at Madison-Grant Junior/Senior High School in Fairmount, Ind. (Madison-Grant Argylls Photo)

Young Hammel now in charge at Benton Central

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Jarrett Hammel has quickly transitioned from student-athlete to educator-coach.

Ten months after pitching his last game for Valparaiso (Ind.) University he was announced as the head baseball coach at Benton Central Junior/Senior High School in Oxford, Ind. 

“I’m super-excited to get after it,” says Hammel, who was originally hired as pitching coach but became a head coach candidate when Jon Vernon opted to spend more time with family and focus on his duties as Benton Central’s head volleyball coach. “We want to do everything with a purpose. 

“Baseball is not like other sports.”

The son of Donovan (Ill.) Elementary fourth grade teacher Todd Hammel and Morocco Elementary first grade teacher Pam Hammel, Jarrett received an Elementary Education degree from VU and began the 2020-21 school year as a fourth grade teacher at Prairie Crossing Elementary in Oxford.

At South Newton — a K-12 school in Kentland, Ind. — Jarrett got a chance to help with younger kids as a high school junior and senior.

“I knew I wanted to be a positive role model — someone to look up to,” says Hammel. “I look up to my parents a lot. They made a lot of sacrifices for me to be where I am today.

“They’ve always had my back.”

Coming from a close-knit family where both sets of grandparents live within 15 minutes, Jarrett counts younger brother Jay as his best friend. They grew up pushing each other in academics and athletics. 

With 1,195 points, 6-foot-4 Jarrett Hammel was the No. 1 all-time scorer in South Newton boys hoops history until he was surpassed by younger brother Jay Hammel with 1,363. The 6-6 Jay is now a 21-year-old junior right-hander on the Quincy (Ill.) University baseball team and a Multimedia Journalism major.

A 2016 South Newton graduate, Jarrett Hammel played baseball for Glenn Donahue and basketball for Mike Hall. 

Hammel was born in Lafayette, Ind., and grew up in Brook, Ind., where he still resides. He knew Donahue as a youth baseball coach who moved up to the high school ranks. 

Jarrett played four high school summers of travel ball with the Indiana Nitro.

His first college baseball season was spent with head coach Rick O’Dette at Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind. When the school closed, he transferred to Valpo U., and played for head coach Brian Schmack.

Hammel was a high school sophomore when he appeared on O’Dette’s radar. He became a mentor to the pitcher.

“I learned a lot in the year I was (at St. Joe),” says Hammel. “My outlook on life has changed because of him.”

O’Dette stressed being a good example and always staying in contact with people who are close to you.

“Don’t let conversations get stale,” says Hammel. “You never know when they made need you or you may need them.”

Once it was announced that St. Joseph’s was closing, Hammel recalls that O’Dette was worried more about getting us placed than his own career. O’Dette landed at Saint Leo (Fla.) University.

Hammel played summer college ball for the Lafayette Aviators in 2017 and 2018. Brent McNeil (now pitching coach at Purdue Fort Wayne) managed the team to a Prospect League title in 2017. Will Arnold (now with Prep Baseball Report Arizona) was in charge in 2018.

While Hammel was at South Newton, Valpo also had interest in him and Schmack welcomed the southpaw when he became available.

What did Hammel learn from Schmack?

“Just being a man and owning up to your mistakes,” says Hammel. “Never put the blame on someone else.”

It’s about responding to adversity — something that is plentiful in baseball.

From his personal life, Hammel has learned to greater than his ups and downs.

“When things are not going your way in life you can’t put your head down and go through the motions,” says Hammel. “You have to ride the wave. Life is full of highs and lows.”

He also learned important concepts about teamwork and time management while playing NCAA Division I baseball.

As left-handed pitcher, left-hander Hammel hurled for Valpo at Alabama State March 11, 2020 and was announced as the head of the Bison program Jan. 12, 2021. 

The 23-year-old Hammel conducted his first winter practice session where he engaged with 15 athletes (many BC baseball players are involved in winter sports) and dished out baseball and life lessons. 

Hammel expects his players to be role models.

“I told them that someone is always watching your every move,” says Hammel. “You’re high schoolers now. Be good people and go hard with everything you do.”

Benton Central (enrollment around 550) belongs to the Hoosier Athletic Conference (with Benton Central, Lafayette Central Catholic, Twin Lakes and Rensselaer Central in the West Division and Hamilton Heights, Lewis Cass, Northwestern, Tipton and Western in the East Division). 

The Bison are in an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping with Maconaquah, Northwestern, Peru, Twin Lakes, West Lafayette and Western. Benton Central has won 25 sectionals — the last in 2009.

While the COVID-19 pandemic took away the 2020 season, Benton Central fielded two teams in 2019 and Hammel says he expects to have about 30 players for two squads in 2021.

Hammel is in the process of finding assistant coaches. He would like to have a Benton Central alum on his staff. Bringing in coaches from Newton County is not practical since Brook is in Central Time and Oxford is in Eastern Time.

In looking to his feeder system, Hammel likes the youth program already established and plans to place players in competitive summer leagues and with top travel organizations.

“We want to get them out of their comfort zone and change their outlook on life,” says Hammel, who also plans to start a fall baseball program at BC.

“We went to keep kids at it and try to perfect their craft year-round,” says Hammel. “We’re trying to maximize everyone’s potential.”

Recent Benton Central graduates in college baseball include Matt Taylor and Taylor Varnado with Marian University in Indianapolis. Knights head coach Todd Bacon went to BC.

There’s also Alex Thurston at Valparaiso U., and Payton Hall at Oakland City (Ind.) University.

Benton Central senior Dalton Rennaker is a Marian commit.

Jarrett Hammel, a 2016 graduate of South Newton High School in Kentland, Ind., and 2020 graduate of Valparaiso (Ind.) University, has been hired as head baseball coach at Benton Central High School in Oxford, Ind.

VanOeveren, Hamilton Heights Huskies ready to go

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

A former all-Big Ten Conference and professional infielder was hired in the fall of 2019 as head coach of the baseball program at Hamilton Heights High School in Arcadia, Ind., and was getting the Huskies ready when the 2020 season was placed on hold and — eventually — canceled because of the pandemic.

Ryan VanOeveren, who was a standout at the University of Michigan and was selected by the Montreal Expos in the 26th round of the 1995 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, is now leading some Hamilton Heights players through twice-a-week IHSAA Limited Contact paces and is optimistic to really get rolling in 2021.

The Huskies have also been conditioning for the spring.

“It’s been pretty good,” says VanOeveren. “There’s been a good turnout. The kids have good attitudes and are hungry to get back on the field.

“We met Monday and the intensity level went up.”

VanOeveren, who was an assistant at Otsego (Mich.) High School after his playing career and more recently a coach in the Indiana Primetime Baseball travel organization, places an emphasis on fundamentals. Defense and pitching will be important to the Huskies.

“Making the routine plays on defense is absolutely critical to playing successful baseball,” says VanOeveren. “It’s about executing the fundamentals of the game.

“We’re building guys on the mound — Knowing when to push the envelope and when to back off. They’ve responded really well.”

Hamilton Heights (enrollment around 750) is a member of the Hoosier Athletic Conference (with Benton Central, Lafayette Central Catholic, Lewis Cass, Northwestern, Rensselaer Central, Tipton, Twin Lakes, West Lafayette and Western).

The Huskies are part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping with Delta, Guerin Catholic, Jay County, New Castle and Yorktown. Hamilton Heights has won two sectional titles — 2006 and 2012.

Recent Hamilton Heights graduates playing college baseball include Sam Fulton (Chattanooga, Tenn., State Community College), Alex Hewitt (Butler University in Indianapolis), Ike Peterson (Grace College in Winona Lake, Ind.) and Reese Wills (Marian University in Indianapolis. VanOeveren says some current players are weighting their options.

“Recruiting is challenging for everybody because of COVID,” says VanOeveren. “I was recruited to numerous schools all over the Midwest. My advice: Don’t select the school just based upon baseball.

“Baseball comes to an end at some point for all of us.”

A 1991 graduated of Grandville (Mich.) High School near Grand Rapids, VanOeveren was initially recruited by Michigan assistant Ted Mahan (who went on to be head coach at Michigan State University) and Wolverines head coach Bill Freehan got involved near the end of the process. VanOeveren committed in May of his senior year.

VanOeveren knew about Freehan’s catching with the Detroit Tigers, but was at school in Ann Arbor when he learned about his exploits in baseball and football at Michigan.

“Coach Freehan was a genuinely caring person,” says VanOeveren. “He’d give you the shirt off his back.”

In his first fall, shortstop VanOeveren got to take infield instruction from volunteer assistant Moby Benedict

“Moby made me such a better infielder,” says VanOeveren.

Other U-M assistants during his career included Ace Adams and Steve Merriman.

“Ace was great to be around,” says VanOeveren. “He would not hesitate to get on you, but we were better for it.”

VanOeveren counted Merriman, who is expected to return to Michigan as pitching coach for 2021, as a friend back then and today.

“He’s a quality human being,” says VanOeveren of Merriman. “He shows that he cares about you if you work hard for him. 

“The baseball stuff falls into place after that.”

VanOeveren went to Michigan as an undersized player and continued to work.

“I was fortunate to have coaches that were patient for me growing up,” says VanOeveren.

After a strong junior season in 1994, teammates voted outfielder Rodney Goble and infielder VanOeveren as co-captains for 1995.

“It lead by example,” says VanOeveren. “I was not that verbal.”

As an Expos minor leaguer, VanOeveren played 49 games for the 1995 Class-A Albany (Ga.) Polecats. Several future big leaguers were on the team — among them Vladimir Guerrero, Brad Fullmer and Javier Vazquez.

VanOeveren was invited to spring training in 1996. At the end of camp, he was not assigned to a team as an infielder but was given the option of transitioning to a pitcher.

“I had a little too much pride back then,” says VanOeveren. “I asked for my release.”

VanOeveren went back to finish his college degree and moved on.

He was at Otsego for two seasons then did not coach again until the late 2010’s. By this time he had moved to central Indiana.

As an Indiana Primetime coach, VanOeveren gets to work with Quentin Brown and Ryan Cole and his players get to train at Finch Creek Fieldhouse in Noblesville, Ind.

“(Indiana Primetime) is good to the kids at Hamilton Heights, giving them the opportunity to play really competitive baseball,” says VanOeveren.  “I love Finch Creek. We’re spoiled getting access to that place.

“We’re very fortunate to live in this area and have those opportunities.”

Besides VanOeveren, the 2021 Husky coaching staff features varsity assistants Brian Clancy and Brad Pitts, junior varsity head coach Adam Hughes and JV assistant Cole Meyer. Clancy, who played at Lewis University in Romeoville, Ill., was on the 2000 staff. Pitts, who had coached at Harrison High School in West Lafayette, is a newcomer to Hamilton Heights.

Husky Ballpark has received laser-leveling and upgrades to the irrigation system from Marschand’s Athletic Field Service and a new backstop is going up. VanOeveren says new dugouts and other improvements could come this summer.

Ryan VanOeveren is head baseball coach at Hamilton Heights High School in Arcadia, Ind.

Brad Pitts is an assistant bseball coach at Hamilton Heights High School in Arcadia, Ind.

Cole Meyer is an assistant baseball coach at Hamilton Heights High School in Arcadia, Ind.
Brian Clancy is an assistant baseball coach at Hamilton Heights High School in Arcadia, Ind.
Adams Hughes is an assistant baseball coach at Hamilton Heights High School in Arcadia, Ind.

Twin Lakes’ Burton has been coaching with discipline for four decades

RBILOGOSMALL copy

BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Jake Burton has not changed the way he coaches much in more than four decades of leading high school baseball programs in Indiana.

Modeling his style after men like LaPorte’s Ken Schreiber and Lafayette Jeff’s Paul “Spider” Fields, Burton decided discipline would be the cornerstone of his teams.

“We’re demanding,” says Burton, who is in his 41st season of doing things his way — third at Twin Lakes High School in Monticello in 2019 after 37 at McCutcheon (1979-2015) in Lafayette and one at North Newton (2016) in Morocco. “The kid has to make sacrifices. We don’t allow long hair. It has to be an inch above the collar and off the ear.

“If they miss a practice unexcused, it’s a 20-mile run. You don’t play again until you get done.”

Burton hasn’t wavered from that approach since his first game in 1979.

“People say that’s crazy, but we’ve eliminated problems because kids don’t take a chance,” says Burton. “They don’t test you on those things. They know we mean business. We’ve not changed that.

“Not that these things make the program, but they establish a culture for the program.”

With 849 career wins coming into this week, Burton is second among active high school baseball coaches in Indiana (behind Andrean’s Dave Pishkur). He was inducted into the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1998 and became just the fourth Indiana prep baseball coach to do into the National High School Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2016.

Twin Lakes (enrollment around 820) is a member of the Hoosier Athletic Conference (with Twin Lakes, Benton Central, Lafayette Central Catholic, Rensselaer Central and West Lafayette in the West Division and Hamilton Heights, Lewis Cass, Northwestern, Tipton and Western in the East Division).

A two-game home-and-home series on consecutive nights is played within the division. Crossover games are then played with corresponding seeds in each division — 1 vs. 1, 2 vs. 2 and son on.

The Indians opened the 2019 season with a trip to Tennessee, where they met Halls, West Carroll and Tipton-Rosemark Academy (2018 Tennessee state runner-up among private schools).

“It was a good experience for us,” says Burton.

A year ago, a team rule was made that players could be away at the beginning of spring break through Tuesday and had to be back on Wednesday in order to travel to Tennessee and be ready to open the conference season against Lafayette Central Catholic.

Other non-conference opponents include Crawfordsville, Delphi, Eastern (Greentown), Frontier, Kankakee Valley, Lafayette Jeff, Maconaquah, McCutcheon, North Newton, North White and Tri-County.

The Indians are part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping with Andrean, Hanover Central, Kankakee Valley, Knox and Wheeler. Twin Lakes has won 12 sectional titles — the last in 1993.

Twin Lakes was off to an 11-5 start in 2019, including 5-1 in the HAC.

“I think we’ve turned the corner a little bit,” says Burton. “We are winning games that we should win and competing well in all our games except for a couple.

“The kids seem to be confident that they can win. When I first got here that didn’t exist.”

Burton started out with 32 players in the program his first year and had 18 in the second season after some weeding out.

“They weren’t here for the real reason you play baseball,” says Burton. “You play sports to get better at it and enjoy the camaraderie, but also enjoy the competition.

“They were doing it as if it was just something to do rather than something they wanted to do.”

Retired as a school administrator, when he’s not serving as a substitute at Twin Lakes, Burton likes to play golf or pickleball before coming to the school.

Pickleball is a paddle-and-ball game similar to tennis played to 11. When he and his partner got down 10-1, the partner started talking about asking their opponent for a rematch. Burton wasn’t willing to concede defeat. He knew the game wasn’t over until one team got to 11.

Burton recalls a day in1984 at McCutcheon when his team was down 10-2 in the first game of a doubleheader.

The coach began pulling out his starters and telling them to get something to eat and be back for the second game.

Meanwhile, the subs started hitting doubles and singles and — all of a sudden — in was 10-10. The Mavericks went on to win.

“Baseball is a unique game,” says Burton. “There is no clock and that’s the neatest thing about it.”

There are 22 players for varsity and junior varsity in 2019 and the number is expected to rise.

“We’re building it back up,” says Burton, who had five seniors in 2017, three in 2018 and has four in 2019 (Zion Cosgray, Brock Deno, Graham Howe and Ethan Luzadder). The Indians have nine freshmen.

Burton is assisted by Brian Driver, Mike Hirt, Sam McVady, Jeremy Stinson and Trent Wright.

Pitching coach Driver played for Burton at McCutcheon in the early 1990’s and has coached with Burton at McCutcheon, North Newton and Twin Lakes. Wright serves as the first base coach. Hirt, McVady and Stinson are JV coaches. McVady played for Burton at Twin Lakes.

Since arriving, Burton has watched the Indians’ home field get a new drainage system. A new outfield was installed and leveled.

“We really take care of the field,” says Burton. “We make sure it’s immaculate and things are put away each night.

“We just take a little pride. You can play on a good field and get nice, new uniforms and kids start to feel a little bit better about themselves. It’s something that’s contagious and it spreads and we play a little bit better.”

Monticello Youth Baseball League — a part of the Town & Country system — develops players that will eventually get a chance to wear Twin Lakes uniforms.

Burton says the change from a single class to class sports is the biggest change he’s witnessed in his time coaching baseball in Indiana.

“I never was in favor of class baseball,” says Burton. “I liked it when you had one true champion.”

When McCutcheon was a state runner-up during the one-class system in 1994 it meant as much to Burton as when the Mavericks won 4A state titles in 1999 and 2003.

The 1994 state championship game was won 4-3 by Penn, coached by IHSBCA Hall of Famer Greg Dikos.

“That game hinged on one play in the top of the seventh,” says Burton. “We got our 2-hole and or 3-hole hitter on and our clean-up guy, Preny Rodgriguez had just hit one off the wall the last time up.

“We were down 4-2. Do we bunt here? I let him swing away and he hits into a double play. The next batter get a base hit to make it one run but we don’t get two.

“That’s just a decision a coach makes. It happens all the time.”

Burton was a Purdue University student at a time when Indiana coaching legends were still on the scene.

“Things have changed. Ken Schreiber, Jim Reinebold, Bill Jones, Paul “Spider” Fields — they set the tone on how baseball should be coached and played. I was lucky enough to be young enough to be going through college and seeing that.

“You don’t see that anymore. You don’t see people putting in the time like that.”

Burton’s teams have held the No. 1 statewide ranking four times and knocked off No. 1 on 10 occasions. His squads have been state ranked in 33 of his first 40 seasons.

He has coached 23 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series selections and a pair of Indiana Mr. Baseballs Clayton Richard (2003) and Logan Sowers (2014).

Six former players were selected in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, including big leaguers Richard in 2005 and Nick Wittgren in 2009.

Burton has had 84 players play college baseball (10 are still active) with 10 first-team all-staters and 150 all-conference selections.

He’s sent former assistants/players have gone on to become high school coaches in Indiana.

Burton was chosen Indiana Coach of the Year in 1999 and 2003 and was runner-up in the balloting in 1994. He has been a conference coach of the year 13 times and a regional coach of the year eight times.

He has amassed 15 conference championships, 11 sectional title, five regional crowns and twice claimed semistate hardware.

In Burton’s one season at North Newton, the Spartans went 20-9 and won the program’s first conference championship in 26 years.

Jake and Brenda Burton have been married 47 years and have three children — Mike, R.J. and Beth — and seven grandchildren. Teacher Mike (Class of 1993) and project engineer R.J. (1995) played baseball at McCutcheon for their father. Teacher Beth in a 1999 McCutcheon graduate. Jake is currently a Tippecanoe School Corporation board member.

JAKEBURTONTWINLAKES

Jake Burton is in his third season as a high school baseball head coach in Indiana in 2019. It’s his third season at Twin Lakes High School in Monticello.

 

Stambazze keeping minds in motion for Whitko Wildcats

RBILOGOSMALL copy

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

First-year head coach Bob Stambazze says he wants his baseball players at Whitko Junior-Senior High School in South Whitley, Ind., to process the game.

“Your mind is constantly in motion,” says Stambazze. “We do chalk talk and go through (defensive) scenarios. Every play, everyone has a responsibility. Who to back up is so important in this game.

“Remember, back-ups are your last line of defense.”

Stambazze says he wants to establish a solid base for the program in years to come.

“They can say I did it the right way and they can build off of that,” says Stambazze.

A familiar face and voice to athletics in the area covered by the Three Rivers Conference (Fulton, Kosciusko, Miami, Wabash and Whitley counties), Stambazze also serves as sports director and play-by-play announcer for WJOT-FM 105.9 in Wabash and WARU-FM 101.9 in Peru.

He was hired for the baseball job at Whitko this winter after the unexpected passing of head coach Mark Fisher at 35 on Oct. 15, 2018.

“Mark said he got into coaching for how I treated him in Little League,” says Stambazze. “I want to continue what he tried to set up.”

Fisher played for Stambazze as a boy in Huntington County Baseball and was close with Bob and Marla Stambazze’s sons, Jake and Bobby. Both sons are married with two children. Jake Stambazze played multiple positions for Indiana Tech coach Steve Devine and was an NAIA All-America honorable mention for the Warriors in Fort Wayne in 2005.

Bob Stambazze played baseball at Huntington North High School, where he graduated in 1971. The first three years, Paul Buzzard was Vikings head coach. Wally Stoffel began in Stambazze’s senior season and took the team all the way to semistate.

Stambazze counts Don Sherman, Chuck Brimbury and Mike Frame as mentors.

At Huntington North, Stambazze competed against Tipton High School and then-Blue Devils head coach Sherman. It wasn’t long after that Sherman became head coach at Huntington North and went on to a successful career that got him elected to the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

In Sherman, Stambazze saw a fierce competitor and someone devoted to baseball basics.

“He was very intense and everything had to be fundamental,” says Stambazze. “Like he did, I teach (fielders) to track the ball into the glove and ‘gator’ the ball with your right hand and glove. You always used two hands.”

Brimbury coached at Huntington North with Sherman then enjoyed his own success at Peru High School.

“I don’t know if anybody will play as aggressively as a Chuck Brimbury team,” says Stambazze. “He’s one of the more competitive and fun coaches to be around.”

Stambazze credits long-time Huntington University head baseball coach Frame for setting an example of how to handle pitchers and student-athletes.

“He was pitcher and he’s a student of pitching,” says Stambazze of Frame. “He does such a wonderful job with his staff. He has minimized stuff with his staff so they can do more. He breaks things down.

“His faith toward his players, it’s so important. I’ve always believed in telling parents, ‘they’re your sons and daughters, but they’re always going to be my kids.’”

Stambazze sold sporting goods for 32 years. He’s been an IHSAA-licensed official since 1975. This school year, he worked about 20 football games and eight basketball contests. He will be occupied this spring so he won’t be calling softball.

As for calling games on the radio, he does that for high schools in Wabash and Howard counties and Manchester University football and basketball.

“No one has more fun doing it than I do,” says Stambazze, who went on the air 13 years ago as a color commentator and moved over to play-by-play when there was an opening for that position. Uniquely, his color person rotates by the game.

“I’ve had moms work games with me, but they had to keep all the stats,” says Stambazze, who earned the Virgil Sweet Distinguished Service Award from the Indiana Basketball Coaches Association in 2015.

He calls 80 to 90 basketball games a year between high school varsity and junior varsity and college. This past sectional season saw him pull through while dealing with acute laryngitis. He also hosts a weekly Coaches’ Show for during football and basketball seasons.

Stambazze was drafted by the U.S. Army in 1972 and served in Germany. where he played basketball, managed the AYA on base and coached swimming. He played for the Germany/American baseball team in the world tournament in Nicargua in 1973 and coached the European 14-16 All-Stars to the Big League World Series in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in 1974.

After his military service, Stambazze played in three world fast pitch softball tournaments and also served as Huntington County Baseball president. He has been head softball coach at Huntington University and an assistant at Indiana Tech and Wabash High School.

Stambazze took over the Wildcats in time to help with some winter workouts. His assistant is Preston Myers, who made a long daily commute from Lebanon, Ind., to assist with the Northfield High School boys basketball program and is doing the same with Whitko baseball.

There have been 26 players with just two seniors at recent practices for varsity and junior varsity teams.

“We have a good JV schedule with about 20 games,” says Stambazze.

Whitko (enrollment around 460) will compete in the TRC with Maconaquah, Manchester, Northfield, North Miami, Peru, Rochester, Southwood, Tippecanoe Valley and Wabash.

Non-conference opponents include Adams Central, Bellmont, Bluffton, Churubusco, Heritage, Lakeland, Lakewood Park Christian, New Haven, Prairie Heights, Southern Wells, Wawasee and West Noble.

The Wildcats are part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping with Lewis Cass, Manchester, Oak Hill, Rochester and Wabash. Whitko won the program’s lone sectional crown in 2017 with Erik Hisner as head coach and Fisher as one of his assistants. Hisner then went to Northfield as an assistant and is now athletic director at Eastern High School in Greentown, Ind.

Whitko plays its home games on-campus. Since his youth, Stambazze has known the importance of grooming the diamond.

“I’ve always taken care of the field,” says Stambazze. “That kind of comes naturally to me. Our kids do a very good job. They had the rakes in their hands after practice.

“You’ve got to own your program.”

Stambazze has held a clinic for the Larwill youth baseball league and hopes to do the same for youth leagues in Pierceton and South Whitley. Those organizations cover T-ball to Pony League.

There is currently not junior high baseball at Whitko, but it’s something that Stambazze and athletic director Josh Mohr have talked about.

Stambazze opposes some of the rule changes Major League Baseball is implementing like limiting pitching changes and the like.

“MLB doesn’t need to manage the game,” says Stambazze. “That’s part of baseball. They’re trying to take the human element out of the game. That’s the greatest part of the game. Leave it alone.”

The coach does favor the idea of high school batters staying in the batter’s box and the pitchers not taking too much time between deliveries.

“You want to have a flow to the game,” says Stambazze.

The IHSAA pitch count (1 to 35 pitches requires 0 days rest; 36 to 60 requires 1 day; 61 to 80 requires 2 days; 81 to 100 requires 3 days; and 101 to 120 requires 4 days) came along in 2017 and Stambazze favors that. Prior to the restriction, he broadcast games when pitchers representing the same school threw 225 and 175 pitches in tournament play.

Scrimmage rules allow for four innings of 10 batters each. Stambazze says he is planning to use 10 pitchers for four batters apiece in Whitko’s scrimmage and then restrict them to 45 tosses in each of the Wildcats’ first two regular-season games and work up from there.

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BOBSTAMBAZZE

Bob Stambazze is entering his first season as head baseball coach at Whitko Junior-Senior High School in South Whitley, Ind., in 2019. He is a Huntington North High School graduate and is sports director and play-by-play announcer for sports director and play-by-play announcer for WJOT-FM 105.9 in Wabash and WARU-FM 101.9 in Peru. (Jan’s Photography Photo)